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Evangelicals criticized for hiring gay actor.

Evangelical Filmmakers Criticized for Hiring Gay Actor
By NEELA BANERJEE

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 — Christian ministers were enthusiastic at the early private screenings of "End of the Spear," made by Every Tribe Entertainment, an evangelical film company. But days before the film's premiere, a controversy erupted over the casting of a gay actor that has all but eclipsed the movie and revealed fault lines among evangelicals.

The film relates the true story of five American missionaries who were killed in 1956 by an indigenous tribe in Ecuador. The missionaries' families ultimately converted the tribe to Christianity, and forgave and befriended the killers. The tale inspired evangelicals 40 years ago with its message of redemption and grace, and the film company expected a similar reception.

On Jan. 12, though, the Rev. Jason Janz took the filmmakers to task for casting Chad Allen, an openly gay man and an activist, in the movie's lead role as one of the slain missionaries, and later, his grown son.

An assistant pastor at the independent Red Rocks Baptist Church in Denver, Mr. Janz posted his comments on his fundamentalist Christian Web site, sharperiron.org. He also asked the filmmakers to apologize for their choice.

The executives at Every Tribe stood by Mr. Allen. Jim Hanon, the director, said he was by far the best actor for the role. "If we make films according to what the Bible says is true, it's incumbent upon us to live that," he said. "We disagree with Chad about homosexuality, but we love him and worked with him, and we feel that's a Biblical position."

More than 100 pastors of churches across the country signed a letter drafted by Mr. Janz and addressed to Every Tribe expressing their disappointment in the casting of Mr. Allen.

Some evangelicals have boycotted the film, and Every Tribe's executives said that they had also turned over to the authorities material that they considered threatening.

"Does anyone really believe that Chad Allen was the best possible actor for Nate Saint?" Mr. Janz asked in his Jan. 12 Web log entry, referring to one of the characters in the movie. "That would be like Madonna playing the Virgin Mary."

After discussions with executives at Every Tribe, Mr. Janz wrote in an e-mail message that he had recently corrected a few assertions in his original posting and sent the corrections to his audience and members.

But Mr. Janz, who said he rarely weighed in on the culture wars, stood by his previous statement that "we must realize that the Christian message and the messenger are intricately related."

He wrote that Mr. Allen's homosexuality was not so much the problem as was his open activism for gay causes, and that if a drunk who "promoted drunkenness" had acted in the movie, "I'd be just as mad."

One Web log, nossobrii.blogspot .com, written by Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Seminary in Minneapolis, stated in a Jan. 13 entry: "Granted, we must not overreact. And it would probably be an overreaction to firebomb these men's houses. But what they have done is no mistake. It is a calculated strategy."

Greg Clifford, chief operating officer of Every Tribe, said the company, based in Oklahoma, had alerted the F.B.I. there about the Web log. The F.B.I. did not return phone calls yesterday about the matter.

Mr. Janz said he had not been contacted by the F.B.I., and Mr. Bauder could not be reached for comment.

Many evangelicals are concerned that young people inspired by the movie will look up Mr. Allen on the Web and "get exposed to his views on homosexuality, and that would cause some of them to question Biblical views of homosexuality and every other sin," said Will Hall, executive director of BPNews.net, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has published articles critical of Every Tribe's decisions.

Other evangelicals said they felt that the message of the film should override such considerations.

Bob Waliszewski, head of the media review department at Focus on the Family, said that he was saddened by e-mail messages from angry Christians who said they would not see the movie.

A generation of young people were inspired to become missionaries by the true story, and Mr. Waliszewski said he had hoped a new generation would be moved by "End of the Spear."

"Has Focus on the Family made a strong statement against homosexuality? Absolutely," he said. "But what is the message of the product? And do we at Focus feel compelled to check on the sexual history of everyone in a movie? Did they have a D.U.I.? Did they pay their taxes?"

Mr. Hanon echoed: "If we start measuring the sin of everyone in a movie, we would never be able to make a picture because none of us would be left."

Mr. Allen, 31, who assists troubled young gay men and lesbians and speaks on behalf of same-sex marriage, said the response stemmed from fear that he could influence young people to become gay, a notion he dismissed.

Every Tribe, he said, did not see him as a threat. "When they offered me the part, my first thought was, Do they know who they're talking to?" he said in a phone interview.

He said that Mr. Hanon had told him there would be people on both sides who would be unhappy with the decision but suggested that they talk through the matter and show that they could respect one another's differences and work together.

Mr. Allen said: "When he said that, my hair stood on end, and I got up, and said: 'Absolutely! Yes!' "

Whole milk out of NYC public schools

In New York Schools, Whole Milk Is Cast From the Menu
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN

For generations of children, a serving of whole milk, customarily in a red and white carton, has been as synonymous with school as a yellow No. 2 pencil. When President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Program into law in 1946, a half pint of milk was one of five dietary staples required by the bill.

But children today are fat, or at least too many of them are, and to cut the risks of obesity, diabetes and other health problems, New York City — the nation's largest school district — has decided to cut whole milk from the menu.

That feat, no small one in a system that serves a half-million half pints of milk a day, is already under way, with whole milk banished from cafeterias in the Bronx and in Manhattan. To the ire of the dairy industry, which has lobbied fiercely against the change, the other boroughs are following suit and, by the end of this month, officials say, whole milk will be gone for good.

One percent and skim milk, though historically less popular, will still be served, and, to the great relief of many young palates, chocolate skim milk will remain an option in most schools, despite the misgivings of some doctors and nutritionists. In the Bronx, where local health advocates led the charge to expel whole milk from the school system, some schools are offering chocolate milk only one day a week.

City education officials, including the schools system's head chef, say the decision to eliminate whole milk is part of a larger effort to improve nutrition for the city's nearly 1.1 million public schoolchildren.

"We got rid of white bread; you'll never see any white bread in our schools — it's all whole-wheat bread, frankfurter buns, hamburger buns," said Martin Oestreicher, the executive director of school support services who oversees school food. "We reformulated a lot of items. It all goes in the context of trying to cut down the obesity index in our kids."

New York is not the first school district to shift away from whole milk; Los Angeles, the nation's second-biggest district, did so in 2000, and some states, including Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut, have adopted or are considering rules barring or limiting whole milk.

But New York City's decision to ban low-fat flavored milks as well, allowing only chocolate skim as an alternative, makes it one of the strictest policies in the country.

And in the school system that purchases more milk than any other in the United States, and that last year received $340 million in federal reimbursements for school food, a change in the milk menu has high stakes — for the school district and the dairy industry alike.

Before moving forward with the change, city education officials double-checked federal regulations to make sure their reimbursements under the federal school food program would not be jeopardized. (They would have been if the city had decided to switch to soy.)

The American Dairy Association, whose interests in milk consumption are not small, urged the city to expand its offerings of sweetened low-fat milk, which is available in vanilla and strawberry as well as chocolate. School officials ultimately rebuffed that push, but decided to keep skim chocolate milk.

Dairy industry officials warn that milk consumption will drop because children will find skim or 1 percent milk less tasty. They said that they had begun a study of milk consumption in those New York schools that had phased out whole milk, but that the city cut them off from access to the schools, ending the study.

"The industry is definitely concerned," said Rick Naczi, vice president of school marketing for Dairy Management Inc., the parent of the American Dairy Association, which represents dairy farmers. "If it was a small district experimenting somewhere, it wouldn't get as much attention."

Local health officials debated the question of whether eliminating whole milk to reduce fat and calorie consumption was worth the risk that children would not drink any milk, reducing their calcium consumption. Federal guidelines recently raised the recommended amount of milk to three full servings per day.

But with so many children overweight and facing health risks, many medical experts, nutritionists and school nurses say every little step is worth the effort. Skim milk has eight fewer grams of fat per container than whole milk and 54 fewer calories. Chocolate skim milk also has eight fewer grams of fat, but only 20 fewer calories, while 1 percent milk has 5.5 fewer grams of fat and 28 fewer calories.

"There is a huge amount of obesity in the school," said Jacqueline Kelderhouse, a nurse practitioner at a health clinic inside Public School 28 in the Bronx, which is run by Montefiore Medical Center's School Health Program. "We do insulin levels, we do cholesterol panels — we don't just look at the child and say your child is obese."

Another issue for the city was its federal reimbursements. School officials worried that if fewer students drank milk, which is the only beverage available on the lunch line, fewer might each lunch at all, jeopardizing federal money. Federal reimbursements depend on students' taking at least three items from approved categories. Milk qualifies as one item.

Officials say they are monitoring schools that have already stopped offering whole milk and that consumption is down approximately 5 percent. At schools that stopped serving chocolate milk, consumption on those days is down 15 percent. But they said there was no drop in the number of meals being served.

In an effort to improve nutrition last year, the city schools briefly offered skim milk in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but officials decided to keep only chocolate. Jose Baez, 10, a fourth grader at P.S. 28, which now serves chocolate milk only on Fridays, said that he loved the new low-fat milk, but that some classmates were upset. "They said, 'Oh, my God, they took away the chocolate milk and the strawberry milk,' " Jose said. "They started complaining."

Although city education officials said they had planned for some time to get rid of whole milk, decisive action this year came only after a grass-roots efforts in the Bronx that began with officials at the Montefiore clinics and at two community groups, Bronx Health Reach and Bronx Healthy Hearts.

The groups, working with school officials in the Bronx, developed an education kit to teach children about the healthier milk. David Appel, the physician who runs Montefiore's school health program, said, "The question is, can we get healthy habits that are life-long, life-sustaining?"

The milk industry fought back. Mr. Naczi said industry officials and nutrition experts had met with city officials and written to them "trying to get them to reconsider." He said the industry was concerned about how quickly the city had moved to cut whole milk, especially because whole milk has a larger market share in New York City, 37 percent, compared with 30 percent nationwide.

"Milk consumption in this country is in a 20-year decline because of competition from soft drinks; obesity is on the increase," Mr. Naczi said. "I don't know how you can take a decreasing graph and blame obesity on this product."

Bob Murray, a professor of pediatrics at Columbus Children's Hospital in Ohio and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health, said flavored low-fat milk was preferable to no milk.

At P.S. 28 yesterday, children said they were quite happy with the new milk, although the preference for chocolate was clear. On a recent Tuesday, according to cafeteria records, the school served a total of 942 cartons of milk — 684 low-fat and 258 skim — but had dozens of cartons left over. Last Friday, with chocolate milk available, the school served 1,006 containers, but all 420 cartons of chocolate milk were taken.

"They took it all," said Chriscarol Tucker, a school food supervisor. "Because they like the chocolate."

"After Polite Sessions, Letters Filled With Anti-Semitism"

After Polite Sessions, Letters Filled With Anti-Semitism
By RONALD PIES, M.D.

Each day, I would dread checking my office mailbox, wondering if another of the overstuffed envelopes with their huge scrawled addresses would turn up.

After a few months, my patient had learned that all he needed on the envelope was my last name and our mental health clinic's nine-digit ZIP code. The post office unfailingly delivered his missives. Some days, six or seven letters would arrive at once. Then there would be weeks when I heard nothing at all from him, leaving me to wonder if he was dead or perhaps plotting my death.

It was hardly funny at the time, but my patient gave new meaning to the phrase "insane bigotry." There was no question that that he suffered from chronic paranoid schizophrenia. He had been seen at our clinic for many years before I was on the staff, and his pathology was voluminously documented. But it seemed that I was the first Jewish psychiatrist to treat him — and this had fueled a psychotic fire that seemed truly infernal.

To look at the man, you might think he had wandered over from some university lecture hall, or perhaps a monastery. Tall, slender, and impressively austere, he reminded me of the actor Max von Sydow, though his face was framed by a huge pair of black horn-rimmed glasses.

Trained by the Jesuits, my patient had wound up as a teaching assistant at a small Eastern college. Though recognized for his brilliance in theology, he was also seen as quite mad. In addition to claiming that the dean was out to poison him, he had threatened his department head and several students. To his everlasting fury and bitterness, he had been asked to leave the university or face incarceration.

I never learned the origin of my patient's virulent anti-Semitism — some of my colleagues have argued that such bigotry is itself a kind of mental illness — but it was expressed in nearly every letter I received. "Jews don't live long" or "The Jews must pay for killing our Lord" were typical themes.

But my patient was far too clever to make any direct threats against me. He knew that if he did so, we would have grounds to petition the court for an involuntary commitment. No, his threats were allusive, oblique and sometimes baroquely ingenious, along the lines of "Sic transit piesius Monday." Thus Pies will die on Monday? Who knew?

With each such veiled threat, our clinical staff met to assess the actual danger. We never had enough evidence to fill out a so-called pink paper for involuntary hospitalization. My patient understood this well, and usually presented himself wearing a compressed cat-who-ate-the canary grin.

And yet, in our sessions, the man was a model of refined politesse. Our dialogues went something like this:

"So tell me, Doctor," he would say, removing his glasses for emphasis, "What do you think of St. Anselm's argument proving the existence of God? Don't you think it is transparently circular?"

Because my patient had refused virtually all my medical instructions and recommendations — including my repeated pleas that he take adequate doses of an antipsychotic medication — I decided I would engage him on the level he seemed to desire. And since theology has been a longstanding interest of mine, this was not entirely unpleasant.

"Well," I would reply, "as far as Anselm goes, it does seem circular to begin by assuming the existence of the very being whose existence is in doubt."

"Ah!" my patient would exclaim, extending his glasses toward me. "Just so, Doctor, just so!"

The rock-hard facade of his psychosis never opened to reveal any inkling of pain, loneliness or despair, yet I suspected that these currents ran deep in him. Once, when he complained that he missed his old books on theology, I offered to lend him some of mine. He stared at me for a moment with a mixture of astonishment and rage — how dare I bestow an act of kindness upon him! — and then said simply, "That would be acceptable, Doctor."

Over the course of a year, I developed a peculiar fondness for this brilliant and tortured man. I never replied to any of his threatening letters, and he, in turn, never lifted a finger against me. (It is, after all, a myth that psychiatric patients are a dangerous and violent lot.)

When his letters were reasonable, and even gracious, I would respond in kind. He got no better, but he grew no worse.

Finally, I had to inform my patient that I was leaving the center for another position. He grew very still during this last session, as if drawing a cloak around his vulnerability. On his way out the door, he extended his hand to me for the last time — a cold and frail bit of bone — and said, "I do have a very serious illness, don't I, Doctor?"

On a new version of Swan Lake in Beijing

China's Bold 'Swan,' Ready for Export
By DAVID BARBOZA

BEIJING — In November, a performance of a sensationally popular acrobatic version of "Swan Lake" in Shanghai was abruptly canceled. Refunds were issued to more than 3,000 ticketholders. And the show's two lead performers were summoned here to the nation's capital.

"We flew to Beijing and arrived on Saturday," said Wu Zhengdan, the female lead. "We knew we were going to perform for someone special. We just didn't know who it was."

That Sunday evening, Ms. Wu and her partner, Wei Baohua, performed at a banquet in the Great Hall of the People, one of China's landmark government buildings, for dignitaries who included President Bush and China's president, Hu Jintao.

Demonstrating the unconventional blend of classical ballet and traditional Chinese acrobatics they perfected for the new "Swan Lake," the delicate Ms. Wu, 24, did a pirouette, aloft on the shoulder and outstretched arm of the muscular Mr. Wei, 34, who is also her husband. She also rose up, stunningly, on pointe on Mr. Wei's head. There followed a gymnastic pas de deux.

Such bravura moves have delighted crowds in China over the past year, helping turn this radical reworking of "Swan Lake" by the Guangdong Military Acrobatic Troupe into a box office hit and transforming the couple into stars.

Now, the acrobatic "Swan Lake" featuring Ms. Wu and Mr. Wei is preparing for a world tour that will include Russia, Japan, Germany and the United States, where the couple already won high praise last October when they took part in the "Festival of China" at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

What audiences will see is not your usual "Swan Lake." Although this 19th-century Russian ballet has been a fixture on the Chinese stage for decades, the current version contains several decidedly Chinese twists. It opens with Prince Siegfried dreaming of a beautiful girl who has been transformed into a swan by an evil eagle, a vision that propels him into a quest that takes him from Europe through Africa, the Middle East and South Asia before landing him in Beijing — a journey that provides the acrobatic troupe with ample opportunity for displays of local color. There, in the Forbidden City, he meets the young Chinese swan-woman he will make his bride. This West-meets-East take on "Swan Lake" is emblematic of the broad shift under way in China as state-sponsored cultural institutions move toward more market-oriented offerings. Film producers, dancers, musicians — even military performing groups — that long depended on the government for financial support are now aggressively pursuing commercial opportunities. They are seeking private sponsors and hoping to profit by luring bigger audiences at home or exporting cultural extravaganzas to the rest of the world.

Filmmakers, often backed by state-owned production houses, are now trying to make Hollywood blockbusters. Even the monks of Shaolin Temple, famed for their martial arts skills, have gone commercial, forming their own for-profit company to produce kung fu movies and promote the Shaolin brand. The choreographer behind the new "Swan Lake," Zhao Ming, says China's state-run performing arts system is packed with hidden talent waiting to be discovered. "There are a lot of people with great technique here, but because they're in the military troupe, they have less chance to let people know," said Mr. Zhao, who also choreographs the Beijing Military Troupe.

Both Ms. Wu and Mr. Wei are products of a similarly rigid system, the socialist-era sports school programs that are still geared toward producing Olympic champions. They grew up in Liaoning Province, in northeast China, and first met at the Shenyang Sports School, one of the region's premier sports schools, when he was 16 and she 6. The school typically recruits children as young as 5 to spend the rest of their youth in the boarding school, training for national and international competition. But Ms. Wu and Mr. Wei say they went by choice. Mr. Wei was introduced to the sport through his father, an accountant at the local acrobatics school. Ms. Wu responded to an advertisement for a gymnastics program.

She was among 3,000 youths who tried out for 20 slots, but she didn't make the cut.

"The teacher said I was not very tall, and a little fat — not good," she said in a backstage interview before a performance here in Beijing.

But a teacher from the local sports school saw her routine and asked her to join a eurythmics program. And so she became a nearly full-time child athlete, usually training 10 hours a day. The teachers were strict, Ms. Wu recalled, forcing children to run endless laps around the track or to do splits by placing their legs on two separate chairs and holding a perfect position for 30 minutes at a time.

At 12, she joined the provincial sports school and began teaming up with Mr. Wei to compete in sports acrobatics, which involved human pyramids and synchronized athletic movements. Three years later, in 1995, the pair won the national championship. In that same year, in Germany, they were crowned world junior champions. But a year later, Ms. Wu fell during an event, injuring her neck. For a year, they didn't compete. In 1997, they placed a disappointing third in the World Championships in Britain.

Ms. Wu was discouraged and weary of the training regimen. She considered quitting and entering a university. Mr. Wei was ready to leave the school and the sports acrobatic team himself, but he was also determined to win the world title. Eventually, the two joined the Guangdong Military Acrobatic Troupe, in the far southern city of Guangzhou.

Their careers picked up. They won another national championship.

In 2001 they were asked to perform for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Shanghai before Mr. Bush and Jiang Zemin, China's president at the time. Troupe officials say Mr. Bush left before the couple's performance, but Mr. Jiang was so impressed he later presented Mr. Bush with two DVD's of the show, one for the president and another for his father.

That year, the couple had begun to add some ballet and dance elements to their acrobatic routine with the help of Mr. Zhao, the choreographer, who was recruited by the Guangdong troupe to help develop routines in preparation for the world title event at the XXVI International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo in 2002.

They took first prize.

"They both have very good technique," Mr. Zhao said, explaining the difference he made in their first collaboration. "The most difficult thing was to get them to have the feeling of a dance. I told them to be beautiful, to have rhythm and listen to the music."

By then, the couple's gradual evolution into dancers was apparent. They were mixing ballet moves with acrobatics, training with Mr. Zhao and the National Ballet of China. And officials at the Guangdong Military Acrobatic Troupe were looking for a market opportunity after they struck a deal with Shanghai City Dance Company to create a new show. They came up with the acrobatic "Swan Lake," a show featuring dozens of acrobats swinging from ropes, juggling balls and tumbling and hopping across the stage as Siegfried seeks his beautiful white swan.

Whether they are acrobats or ballet stars, no one is sure. But Ms. Wu and Mr. Wei, who were married in 2003, say they're willing to see where this strange act leads.

"I'm not sure what it is," Ms. Wu said of their performance, gazing at Mr. Wei in their dressing room. "I can't leave the acrobatics world, but I'm not 100 percent in ballet. I guess we'll just see where it goes. If people like the performance, I'll continue to do it."

What makes people British?

Under a Big Umbrella, but What Else Do They Share?
By ALAN COWELL

LONDON, Jan. 31 — Every so often, the British like to ask themselves what it is that makes them British. And just as often, they seem to conclude that if you need to ask, you cannot really know.

Is Britishness just a plum-colored passport, or is it something else? Is it about cricket and warm beer, Buckingham Palace, tolerance and modesty and quaint Morris dancers? Or should the national image be modified to include binge-drinkers, teenage gangs and soccer hooligans — the standard-bearers of a darker post-industrial Britain?

Is Britishness these days more about inner city grit, and people from what was once an empire unsure of their welcome in a land still groping for tolerance? And who, indeed, could evoke modern Britain without mentioning a retail mania that keeps the entire economy afloat? If Napoleon Bonaparte once belittled the English as a nation of shopkeepers, what scorn might he now heap on this nation of shoppers?

Most recently, Gordon Brown, the (Scottish-born) chancellor of the exchequer and heir apparent to Prime Minister Tony Blair, raised the question anew by musing in public that the British might do well to emulate the Americans — setting aside a day to celebrate their Britishness, for instance, and taking a bit more pride in their flag. (He cited the Fourth of July as an example — although, like many post-colonial anniversaries across the globe, that is a more a day for bidding farewell to Britishness than embracing it.)

More somberly, the lethal London bombings last July, carried out by British-born Muslims, confronted the nation with a stark question of identity: if this multicultural society is to embrace all its disparate strands after decades of immigration from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and most recently Eastern Europe, what common values should bind a new Britishness transcending faith, race or origin?

Part of the response came in new rules last November requiring would-be citizens to undergo a formal examination based on a 146-page primer called "Life in the United Kingdom." The volume, published by the Home Office, sets out Britain's history from around the Roman conquest onward, touching on some behavioral characteristics depicted as betraying an essential Britishness.

"If you spill a stranger's drink by accident, it is good manners (and prudent) to offer to buy another," a section entitled Pubs advises.

Long before the July bombings, though, the question of Britishness had filtered through the prism of what is called devolution — the creation of separate parliaments and other political structures in Wales, Scotland and, with greater difficulties, Northern Ireland.

As that exercise underlined, Britishness comes second to Scottishness and Welshness in Scotland and Wales, while in England itself, Britishness tends to get confused with Englishness — a narrower and equally elusive definition that sometimes seems to have been hijacked by right-wing, anti-immigrant extremists.

Common to all these considerations are the changes that have re-contoured Britain's profile. Once, questing for an idyllic expression of Britishness, John Major, a former Conservative prime minister, dwelt on cricket-driven images of "long shadows on county grounds, warm beer and invincible green suburbs."

That is the Britain whose disappearance was already being mourned in the verse of the former poet laureate John Betjeman, who died in 1986: nostalgia for the essence of Britishness, it seems, is a movable feast, looking back fondly to an era of bad food, indifferent storekeepers and haughty aristocrats that, nevertheless, seemed somehow better.

Twenty years after Betjeman's death, it is not only the landscape and the cityscapes that have changed. Between 1991 and 2001, when Britain's population increased by 2.2 million, to 58 million, more than half the increase was made up of people born in other countries, according to a recent survey in The Guardian.

Britishness, redolent of the monarchy, the church, cream teas and standing politely in line, must now share space with Britishness expressed through the literature of Monica Ali and Zadie Smith. If Britishness once meant reserve, it now means the end of deference (even the time-honored queue is under threat in the urban jungle). And if Britishness once implied a certain diffidence about public displays of wealth, the new Britishness — at least since the Margaret Thatcher era — trumpets its success through the multiple tailpipes of late-model (German-owned) Bentley and (American-owned) Aston Martin automobiles.

But there is a more subtle tie between Englishness and Britishness. The two are not synonymous, though some values may be claimed by both. Consider for instance, Rupert Brooke's World War I sonnet, "The Soldier," which muses: "If I should die, think only this of me/ That there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever England."

Understated valor is probably common to the British and English self-perception. Yet, perhaps by default, the red and white flag of St. George, as much as the red, white and blue of the Union Jack, has come to stand for a cruder jingoism verging on the racism of the hard right and the violence of soccer hooligans. And if Britishness may be defined by its antonyms, then it is certainly not Frenchness or German-ness. ("Whatever you do, don't mention the war," says Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese in the comedy show "Fawlty Towers." But, in their hearts, many Britons prefer the Churchillian definition of World War II as their "finest hour.")

Britishness, of course, is never so demonstrative as when its icons are threatened. Last week the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation, not English or Scottish or Welsh!) announced plans to abandon a medley of British songs called the "U.K.Theme" that is played at 5:30 a.m. — hardly the time for raw patriotism, in peacetime at least.

In response, a chorus of voices, including that of Chancellor Brown, rose to the song's defense. Personally, Mr. Brown said, "I've always seen the 'U.K. Theme' as one of the symbols of Britishness and a celebration of British culture."

He had, perhaps, forgotten that one strand of Britishness — as perceived by outsiders at least — lies in the art of the supercilious put-down, usually performed by upper-crust types and exemplified by David Cameron, the old-Etonian leader of the opposition Conservatives.

In response to Mr. Brown's call for a more demonstrative, American-style patriotism, Mr. Cameron chose last week to praise British restraint.

"This coyness, this reserve, is, I always think, an intrinsic part of being British," he said. "We are understated. We don't do flags on the front lawn."

On falls onto subway tracks. Eek.

Anatomy of a City Terror: Falling on the Tracks
By MARC SANTORA

It is a fleeting fear surely shared by many a New Yorker who has leaned over a station platform searching for the dim headlights of an approaching subway car. One slip of the foot or one well-timed push is all it would take to land in front of a moving train.

Now, a group of doctors has examined the fate of those who ended up on the tracks and made it to the hospital.

The findings of the study, which looked at more than 200 injuries suffered by people brought to Bellevue Hospital Center during a 13-year period, are at times grisly and sometimes macabre, and often tragic, but undeniably fascinating for those who travel beneath the city.

The study, to be published in the March issue of The American Journal of Public Health, is hardly conclusive: According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, there were 702 cases of people on the tracks between 1990 and 2003, the same period as the study. Roughly half of them resulted in death. But this is the first time a single hospital has tried to determine what can be gleaned from its cases.

Many of those taken to Bellevue were only slightly injured, with more than half of them leaving the hospital without requiring follow-up care. Only one of every 10 victims who made it to the hospital died, a credit to both the medical care they received and the response time of emergency workers.

"What has impressed me the most is that for such a busy system and such a busy ridership, it is such a small percentage of people that actually get injured," said Dr. Amber A. Guth, one of the authors of the study and a member of the surgical faculty at New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center.

Dr. Guth noted that those who were hurt often suffered devastating injuries. It was her work with some of those patients, she said, that compelled her to do the study to try to determine if any patterns emerged that could help prevent future cases.

"We found that the number of subway injuries does correlate with the unemployment rate and the homeless rate in the city," Dr. Guth said.

For the study, Dr. Guth reviewed the patient records of 208 people treated at Bellevue. Since the sample group was small, Dr. Guth said, she could not draw sweeping conclusions. Still, she was struck by the fact that the highest number of cases occurred in 1992, when unemployment in the city peaked at around 11 percent.

As a result of the findings, the report suggested that there be increased vigilance for "behavior patterns associated with suicide attempts" on subway platforms during economic downturns.

However, it found that between 2000 and 2003 only 25 percent of the victims who had been hit by trains and taken to Bellevue had tried suicide. According to a number of studies cited by Dr. Guth, cases in the New York subways seem different from those in other countries. For instance, in the London Underground suicide rates were higher at stations near psychiatric centers.

A great many injuries in the Berlin subways resulted from young people riding on subway cars for sport.

In Hong Kong, some older people used the subways to commit some kind of ritual suicide. "They would get dressed up in their traditional clothing and step in front of a train," Dr. Guth said. As a result, Hong Kong authorities educated transit workers to watch for elderly people who are dressed up and acting strangely, she said.

In New York, 8 of every 10 victims treated at Bellevue were men.

Roughly 20 percent of patients had amputations. Of the 208 patients treated at Bellevue, 28 lost at least one major extremity, 9 lost two and 1 lost four.

With one of New York's largest trauma centers and a staff of doctors trained in microsurgery and the reattachment of severed limbs, Bellevue treats more subway injuries than any other New York hospital.

Perhaps one reason the number of subway accidents is relatively low is because of increased vigilance following the case of Renee Katz. Ms. Katz, an honor student at the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan who sang soprano and played flute, was 17 in 1979 when she was pushed onto the tracks at the West 50th Street station.

She was able to dodge death by rolling to her left, but her right hand was severed. It took 16 hours of surgery to reattach the hand.

Today, she is raising a family, working as an occupational therapist and still singing. She has even recorded an album of cabaret songs, called "Never Been Gone."

Ms. Katz thought the topic of Dr. Guth's study was intriguing, if a bit strange. "If it raises awareness about safety, that is good," she said. "That was one of the few good things to come out my experience."

On the work taking down that really old wall at the bottom of Manhattan.

Taking Down Colonial Walls Only to Build Them Up
By ROBIN FINN

A LITTLE bit giddy and extremely muddy, Joan C. Berkowitz, an architectural conservator with a jolly sense of mission, has just returned from another bonding session with the two Colonial-era walls — a slumbering subterranean assemblage of rock, rubble and mortar beneath Battery Park — discovered by accident when they turned up in the path of the new South Ferry subway tunnel.

Rather inconvenient for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's construction timetable, but a historic find nonetheless, which means the walls are being documented and disassembled (her role), not dynamited. It is, she says, the dirtiest job she's ever done.

But posterity is at stake. These are consequential walls, possibly dating from the 17th century, possibly battery walls or part of a fort, making them the oldest military fortifications known to exist in Manhattan. And making preservation mandatory.

"To think of finding a wall in New York City that might be from the 17th century, that in and of itself is rather amazing," she says, brandishing two handfuls of Battery Park wall samples in her testing lab at Jablonski Berkowitz Conservation Inc. "They do tell us something about Manhattan's past; they are a nice example of something, it's just too soon to tell what."

The stray Dutch brick she found on the site makes a fabulous conversation piece as an office paperweight. "It's about as cute as a brick could be," says Ms. Berkowitz, whose fixation on gritty building materials extends to downloading a game called "Building Materials Bingo" from the Internet. Goofy.

Beautiful walls they are not: Ms. Berkowitz, who has a thing for old mortar, cannot tell a lie, especially not after spending her day ankle deep in mud in a claustrophobic subway trench scrubbing and cataloging the stonework, rock by rock. Granite, brownstone, sandstone, schist. Her work boots are filthy. Her feet are cold. Yes, the smiley face decals on her hard hat and official construction vest are there for artificial levity.

"Just try going down into a construction site and fussing over a dirty old wall while 50 stone-faced guys are giving you this look that says, 'Lady, you're slowing me down: I want to blow up this pit and put my tunnel through,' " says Ms. Berkowitz, whose cherubic presence means they can't do that. Not until she has diagramed a safe way to disassemble the walls and spirit them away for storage so they can be rebuilt and displayed, probably in Battery Park as a companion piece to Castle Clinton, a reconstructed fort built right before the War of 1812.

The designated moving day for the first wall, about 40 feet long by 8 feet thick, was Wednesday. Excited, she bought herself a pair of work boots for the occasion: "state-of-the-art waterproof clodhoppers." When moving day was postponed pending approval from the Federal Transit Administration, which is paying for the $420 million subway project, Ms. Berkowitz, hired by the transportation authority to get the walls out of its subway's way, took it in stride.

"My focus isn't to figure out how old the wall is, it's documenting it to make sure we understand it really well so we can put it back together again," she says. "Heigh-ho, it's off to the muddy pit we go," was the message in a follow-up e-mail update she sent yesterday after her project was officially greenlighted.

Every stone will be labeled so that the walls can be rebuilt, like giant three-dimensional jigsaw puzzles, aboveground. The original mortar will be, she says, "sacrificed" in the process of digging out the stones, but she hopes to reproduce a modern version of it in her lab. Mortar-matching is one of Ms. Berkowitz's specialties, her counterintuitive take on her mother's vocation, interior design; Dad was a dentist, perhaps explaining her ease with picks, chisels and other assorted sharp tools.

"Disassembly is about as aggressive as it gets," she says. "I've lost some sleep over this job; I mean, suppose we can't get the wall back together?" As for a preservationist's recurring nightmare, she says it boils down to this: "How do you keep a ruin a ruin without people ruining it?"

MS. BERKOWITZ, 45, is no stranger to old walls: In 1986 she spent five weeks in Pompeii restoring walls dating from before A.D. 79. Antiquity gives her chills: "You don't go into architectural conservation unless you get that little charge out of it. To me it's kind of art meets science. You need to have somewhat of an artistic eye in order to replicate things."

She worked on Fort Ticonderoga and spent two years reroofing Grant's Tomb and removing the graffiti. Her firm is analyzing paint samples for the restoration of the landmark interior sections of the Plaza Hotel, and has assisted since 1997 in the renovation of landmark bridges on the Merritt Parkway. The disassembly and rejuvenation of the fountain in Washington Square is on her to-do list.

She grew up in Glen Cove, on Long Island; graduated from Vassar with a degree in environmental science; and attended the historic preservation program at Columbia. Before opening her firm in 1995, she spent seven years with the National Park Service.

Ms. Berkowitz lives with a French bulldog, Charlie, and two cats in a not-terribly-historic co-op on the Upper West Side, but owns an 1870's relic (a former hog farm) in Ulster County. Her next project is tearing vinyl siding off the farmhouse's 1950's addition. No T.L.C. necessary. Vinyl does not have artifact status. Yet.

Regarding the school-lunch programs:

Date: 2006-02-03 05:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marveen.livejournal.com
"We got rid of white bread; you'll never see any white bread in our schools — it's all whole-wheat bread, frankfurter buns, hamburger buns," said Martin Oestreicher, the executive director of school support services who oversees school food. "We reformulated a lot of items. It all goes in the context of trying to cut down the obesity index in our kids."

Yes, and you'll see a lot of whole-wheat bread tossed into the garbage too.

My mother worked as a cook for the local school district this past twenty years. They, too, have changed over to 2% milk and whole-wheat bread. (Chocolate milk was only ever served on Fridays anyway.) The garbage bags are clear, to facilitate recovery of errant retainers and silverware.

She says that an irritatingly large number of students started eating the sandwich filling and throwing away the bun or bread since the whole-wheat was made routine. (She was raised not to waste food, you see.)

Once again, the onus is on the parents. Funny how we keep coming back to that....

Re: Regarding the school-lunch programs:

Date: 2006-02-03 01:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leora.livejournal.com
Better that they throw out the bread than eat white bread. White bread is just empty calories. And some of the kids will eat the whole wheat.

I suspect, in time, more kids will be okay with the whole wheat bread. I know people raised on 2% milk who find whole milk unpleasant, because they're not used to it. Of course, a lot of these kids will be having vast amounts of white bread at home :/ So, it'll be hard to make the transition when they start school. But I still think it's worth a try.

Re: Regarding the school-lunch programs:

Date: 2006-02-03 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marveen.livejournal.com
Of course, a lot of these kids will be having vast amounts of white bread at home :/

That's what I meant by saying the onus was on the parents. If little Johnny gets nothing but white-as-snow Squeezy-Soft Bread at home, he's not going to be thrilled about this brown stuff that he actually has to--horrors!--CHEW. If, in addition, he's been allowed to "pick" at home, half the lunch will be wasted.

I'll note here that I was never allowed to pick at home, and this did carry over to the school lunches--either you ate the whole thing or you didn't touch it, you NEVER picked out the parts you liked and left the rest.

Regarding the school-lunch programs:

Date: 2006-02-03 05:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marveen.livejournal.com
"We got rid of white bread; you'll never see any white bread in our schools — it's all whole-wheat bread, frankfurter buns, hamburger buns," said Martin Oestreicher, the executive director of school support services who oversees school food. "We reformulated a lot of items. It all goes in the context of trying to cut down the obesity index in our kids."

Yes, and you'll see a lot of whole-wheat bread tossed into the garbage too.

My mother worked as a cook for the local school district this past twenty years. They, too, have changed over to 2% milk and whole-wheat bread. (Chocolate milk was only ever served on Fridays anyway.) The garbage bags are clear, to facilitate recovery of errant retainers and silverware.

She says that an irritatingly large number of students started eating the sandwich filling and throwing away the bun or bread since the whole-wheat was made routine. (She was raised not to waste food, you see.)

Once again, the onus is on the parents. Funny how we keep coming back to that....

Re: Regarding the school-lunch programs:

Date: 2006-02-03 01:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leora.livejournal.com
Better that they throw out the bread than eat white bread. White bread is just empty calories. And some of the kids will eat the whole wheat.

I suspect, in time, more kids will be okay with the whole wheat bread. I know people raised on 2% milk who find whole milk unpleasant, because they're not used to it. Of course, a lot of these kids will be having vast amounts of white bread at home :/ So, it'll be hard to make the transition when they start school. But I still think it's worth a try.

Re: Regarding the school-lunch programs:

Date: 2006-02-03 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marveen.livejournal.com
Of course, a lot of these kids will be having vast amounts of white bread at home :/

That's what I meant by saying the onus was on the parents. If little Johnny gets nothing but white-as-snow Squeezy-Soft Bread at home, he's not going to be thrilled about this brown stuff that he actually has to--horrors!--CHEW. If, in addition, he's been allowed to "pick" at home, half the lunch will be wasted.

I'll note here that I was never allowed to pick at home, and this did carry over to the school lunches--either you ate the whole thing or you didn't touch it, you NEVER picked out the parts you liked and left the rest.

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